g a i j i n / f o r e i g n e r strangers in our own land l i l l i a n m i c h i k o b l a k e y
In 1942, following the attack upon the American naval base at Pearl Harbour, all people of Japanese descent living in British Columbia were forced by the Canadian government to leave their homes and possessions behind, and were evacuated either to the interior of B.C., or to work on farms in Alberta. Citizens and non-citizens, those born in Canada and those born in Japan, grandparents, parents and children - all suffered the same fate. My family chose to go to Alberta in order to stay together. My parents worked in the sugar-beet fields.
I was born in Alberta, towards the end of the war with Japan. This work is my personal tribute to the courage and tenacity of my parents and all of the Canadian families of Japanese ancestry who endured the indignity and shame of this calamitous experience.
Who am I? Being not wholly Canadian and yet not entirely Japanese, the nature of my identity has been a troubling issue. On the one hand, for example, I inherited the strong feelings of shame that Japanese Canadians experienced following the repressive actions of the Canadian government in World War II. On the other hand, the fact is that my family members have been loyal Canadians for over 100 years and we had nothing to be ashamed of. Nevertheless, I grew up denying my cultural roots, my first language and my people. It is only in recent years that I have tried to reconcile my dilemma by depicting my family's story in my art work. I have attempted to bring past and present together by including myself, as I am now, looking back at the events which happened so long ago and analysing the effects on succeeding generations. I am a member of the Ontario Society of Artists and my work is found in the Government of Ontario Art Collection and in private collections.